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Taking a swipe at social media: More safeguard controls are needed

Social media organizations, in particular, have an ethical obligation to protect children.

Social media. — © AFP
Social media. — © AFP

Today, June 30th, is ‘World Social Media Day’. Does the world need a social media day? World Social Media Day was launched by Mashable on June 30, 2010. It developed as a way to recognize social media’s impact on global communication and to ‘celebrate it’.

Given the prevalence of social media, whether further publicity is needed is debatable. Also, not everyone is celebrating the contribution of social media for there are some who reman deeply concerned about online safety.

According to Miles Hutchinson, Chief Information Security Officer of Jumio, the event serves as a reminder to consumers and organizations of the importance of securing social media platforms to protect children from potentially harmful products and people online.

Hutchinson explains to Digital Journal about what the aims and objectives of the event are: “World Social Media Day reminds consumers and organizations of the importance of safeguards to protect children from potentially dangerous people, content and products on social media platforms.”

In Hutchinson’s view, a regulatory framework is needed: “Social media organizations, in particular, have an ethical obligation to protect children, and they can do so by leveraging age and identity verification methods to keep children from accessing mature content, purchasing age-restricted products, encountering predatory individuals or being exposed to privacy policies designed for adults.”

But do social media providers deliver?  Are they meeting this ethical obligation? The view of consumers suggests they are not.

Hutchinson finds: “Recent survey data shows that 83 percent of consumers want social media platforms to verify their users and hold them accountable for their online activity.” This high number requesting support from social media firms suggests that this support is not forthcoming.

Hutchinson finds that there are too many threats on social media: “Federal investigators estimate that there are over 500,000 online predators active every day, that they have multiple online profiles, and that more than 50 percent of their victims are ages 12 to 15.”

This means social media firms are failing. Hutchinson continues: “It is evident that crucial safeguards are missing from these social media platforms, which are failing to protect children in the digital age.” What Hutchinson recommends is a series of measures, such as: “By utilizing identity verification, biometrics and multi-factor authentication to verify the age and identity of their users, social media platforms can offer children a safer internet experience while allowing for the adaptability and flexibility to meet new threats, regulations and challenges as they arise.”

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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